To say that the Canineu brothers – Lucas and Tulio – have played important roles as members of the Corbin High School boys soccer program over the last several seasons would actually be a pretty big understatement.
In fact, without them it is difficult to imagine that the Redhounds could have enjoyed as much success as they have recently, winning 13th Region titles in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
This dynamic duo gave opponents fits during those three history-making seasons before Tulio left along with several other teammates in the class of 2015. After his older brother’s graduation, Lucas took on even more of a leadership role last fall. He shined as the Hounds’ leading goal scorer by a double-digit margin, but unfortunately for this past year’s squad, they suffered a surprising defeat at the hands of South Laurel in the first round of the 49th District tournament, preventing them from having the chance to win a fourth consecutive regional championship.
Despite that disappointing loss to end his playing career at CHS, Lucas continued to work hard in hopes of having a future in soccer beyond the high school level. On Thursday morning, March 24, that dream became a reality when he signed his letter of intent to play for Saint Francis University, an NCAA Division I school located in western Pennsylvania.
This is not just another story about a local athlete signing to play their respective sport at the collegiate level, however. This is also a story about a family reunion, as Lucas will once again be playing alongside his brother Tulio, who also signed on with the Red Flash one year ago.
And that’s not all. In addition to the Canineu brothers being reunited on the soccer pitch, their father, Paulo Neto, is entering his second season as Head Coach of the Saint Francis men’s soccer program. That’s right, beginning next season, this family trio will have the opportunity to work together and compete for an NCAA Division I championship.
Neto, who was in attendance at Thursday’s signing in a parental capacity, said of this momentous occasion, “I want to first of all congratulate Lucas for all of his hard work. I want to congratulate Tulio as well, because he didn’t get to have a chance to do a signing last year. They have both put in countless hours of hard work and sacrifice to get here.”
“I would like to thank coach [Armando] Cima, who has been more like a family member than just a coach. I also want to thank the boys soccer team, and the high school for everything that you have done for my family. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everybody here, especially coach Cima, for all of the special moments that we have shared. There will always be a place in our hearts for you guys.”
Coach Cima, who has led the Redhounds soccer program since it’s inception nearly 25 years ago, said that he formed a bond with Neto back in those early days of soccer in and around the Corbin area.
“I’ve known Neto for 20 years I guess,” Cima said. “He helped me get started when I took over the youth league here in town. I spoke to the coach at Union College about sending some players over to help with coaching and running clinics. That was when I first met Neto, so that has been a good while since he was playing at Union. It has been a special situation to be friends with him, and to be coaching together at different camps and academies. It has really been a great relationship.”
Cima said of the Canineu brothers, “I’ve been around this family for nearly the whole time they’ve been in the United States. I’ve watched the boys grow up, and I’m going to miss having them close. This is obviously a great opportunity for them to be together at a Division I school, though.”
Both Lucas and Tulio will have the chance to follow in their father’s footsteps over the course of the next few years, but those are going to be some awfully big shoes to fill. Neto casts a rather large shadow with an impressive resume in the sport of soccer that includes several honors both as a player and a coach.
In addition to becoming the all-time leading scorer during his time at Union (69 goals, 50 assists, 188 points), Neto also played on a U-21 team in Rio de Janeiro, as well as a U-23 team in his native country of Brazil. According to his bio on the official website of Saint Francis Red Flash athletics, his last playing experience was in 2005 as a member of the Cincinnati Kings in the United Soccer League.
Neto boasts three years of head coaching experience in the sport of soccer, most recently with the Knoxville Force of the National Premier Soccer League. He began his collegiate coaching career at Lincoln Memorial University in 2003 as an assistant and recruiting coordinator. For six years (2004-09) he was head coach of the University of the Cumberlands men’s soccer program, compiling an overall record of 84-30-9 during his time there. He spent two seasons leading the Shorter University men’s soccer program in Rome, GA, guiding that team to an NCCAA-I Final Four appearance in 2014 before eventually being named the seventh head coach in the history of the Saint Francis soccer program in May of 2015.
Tulio Canineu, who redshirted at SFU last season so that he could have four years of playing eligibility along with his younger brother, said of life as a Red Flash, “It’s been a really good experience. Right now I’m switching majors, but the school is really fun. Our team is really good too. We have a lot of good players, and it’s just been a fun experience overall. I think it is going to be even more fun having my brother there. Hopefully we can excel together, and maybe even make it to the next level together.”
When asked to elaborate on his feeling about being reunited with his younger sibling, Tulio said, “I’m excited that Lucas is coming. I think we mesh really well, and have great chemistry on and off the field. He is a really good player technically, and he has always worked hard throughout his entire career. It shouldn’t be any different now.”
When asked to look back on his time in a Redhound uniform, Tulio said, “High school was some of the greatest years of my life soccer-wise. I definitely learned a lot as a player. This is a great group of guys here. They’ve always been a great group, and they taught me how to become a more humble player. Because of them I learned how to appreciate the team more. The team is what matters the most.”
Finally, Lucas spoke about his signing, saying, “This really is a dream come true. Since I was little I have always wanted to play in Division I. It really is something special, God given, that I get to do that with my brother, my best friend, and my dad, who I know will push me harder and harder every day. When I think about it, everything has worked out the right way.”
Fighting back tears, Lucas talked about trading in his red Corbin uniform for the red of SFU. He said, “It’s sad to be leaving Corbin, but this is really special. I’m really glad that I get to go up there and have this opportunity at Saint Francis. Me and Tulio have been talking about it. It’s going to be tough with our dad always on our backs, but it is going to be a lot of fun at the same time. I can’t wait. I’m very excited.”
Before leaving to return to his daily routine at school, Lucas reflected on the last four years, saying this is a “bittersweet” moment for him personally. “When I came in my freshman year I had no clue why everyone was so passionate about the Redhounds,” he explained. “But as you grow up you begin to develop a bond with your team and your school. You learn what it is to have a family with them. You end up spending all of this time together, and eventually you do end up becoming a family. It’s so hard to leave that, but the time has come.”
In 2015, the Saint Francis Red Flash finished their season with an overall record of 11-5-4. The team will be participating in various activities throughout the summer months leading up the kickoff of the 2016 season this August. The News Journal will provide updates on the Canineu brothers’ progression at SFU in the coming season and beyond.
For more information on SFU athletics, visit them online at sfuathletics.com.